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Help Stop Prairie Dog Poisoning on the Thunder Basin National Grasslands

December 19, 2013

Black-tailed prairie dogs now occupy only about 2 percent of their historic range. A proposed amendment to the United States Forest Service prairie dog management strategy would allow expanded use of poisons on the Thunder Basin and result in a huge reduction in the area of prairie dog habitat currently off-limits to poisoning.

Prairie dogs, members of a keystone species, are an essential part of our vanishing prairies. Dozens of wildlife species, some themselves imperiled, are dependent on or associated with prairie dogs and their colonies. Prairies are among the most imperiled landscapes in the world.

Please help us to protect prairie dogs and their habitat on the Thunder Basin by sending comments to the Forest Service via e-mail or by mail to Responsible Official, Douglas Ranger District, 2250 East Richards Street, Douglas, WY 82633 by January 3rd.

Tell the Forest Service:

  • Poisoning black-tailed prairie dogs on our treasured national grasslands threatens an animal that now occupies only about 2 percent of its historic range.
  • Poisoning prairie dogs also kills other wildlife such as hawks and foxes. Even family pets like cats and dogs can be killed by the use of poisons.
  • Years of hard work and great expense have gone into the development and successful implementation of the existing plan. It makes no sense to pour that work and those tax dollars down the drain now just to appease a few ranchers.
  • The existing plan is working and no loss of prairie dog habitat is acceptable or supported by the best scientific information available.
  • Poisoning on public lands is simply unacceptable. Expanded poisoning is even more unacceptable.
  • A 1/4-mile buffer zone between federal and state/private lands that would allow poisoning is unacceptable. Other nonlethal forms of barriers do effectively control prairie dogs and the existing plan requires that these methods be tried and shown to have failed before any poisoning can occur. Please give the existing plan a chance to work.

After more than a decade of planning and public input, Thunder Basin National Grassland officials set aside more than 50,000 acres — less than 10 percent of the national grassland — as a black-footed ferret reintroduction area. This was to be an area where prairie dogs, the endangered ferrets' critical food source, are protected from poisons and shooting.

The intent of the existing plan is to benefit the prairie dogs and the many animals that depend on them, but now a handful of ranchers have pressured the Forest Service into proposing a plan to go back on their promise and poison all prairie dogs living within 1/4 of a mile of private or state land. This would shrink the already small protected area by more than 20,000 acres. If these few ranchers get their way, thousands of prairie dogs will die needlessly agonizing deaths by poison, despite the availability of proven and effective nonlethal prairie dog control methods. Poisoning these prairie dogs would subject, to a similarly cruel death, other prairie wildlife such as hawks and foxes.

The proposed amendment would delay or make impossible the reintroduction of endangered black-footed ferrets, still one of the most endangered mammals in the Western Hemisphere. Black-footed ferrets are dying of old age in breeding facilities for lack of wild landscapes available to them. The Thunder Basin National Grasslands has been identified as one of the best and most suitable landscapes for ferret reintroduction. To delay or deny this black-footed ferret recovery opportunity makes absolutely no sense.

For more details, see the Notice of Intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement on the proposed amendment.

Please take action today to save the lives of thousands of prairie dogs and members of other species that call America's vanishing grasslands home.